San Mateo County, California
Field Trip Report
Pillar Point - Coastside Birding
Saturday, February 7, 2009
By Gary Deghi
About a dozen participants showed up for a morning birding outing to Pillar Point Harbor. The plan was to start by scoping for waterfowl and shorebirds in the east harbor area, then search for the rare Northern Waterthrush that has been wintering in Princeton, and finish with birding in the area of the jetty at the northwest corner of the harbor. This was an enjoyable trip with lots of birds, excellent weather and friendly people.
Scoping from near the parking lot for the boat launch ramp, the best bird was a continuing Brant perched up on the breakwater for the inner harbor. Other birds noted along the breakwater included Brown Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, Willet, and Western, Glaucous-winged and Herring Gulls. Foraging in the inner harbor were Eared, Horned and Western Grebe, Common Loon, Bufflehead, Lesser Scaup, Common Goldeneye, Surf Scoter and a couple of Harbor Seals. A Common Yellowthroat was calling from the marsh grass just beneath the road. A Great Blue Heron joined us near the parking lot.
Near the mouth of Denniston Creek in Princeton, we did not find the Northern Waterthrush. Birds seen in the area included Red-shouldered Hawk, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Pygmy Nuthatch, Black Phoebe, California Towhee, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Song, White-crowned and Golden-crowned Sparrow and Purple Finch. The most interesting find was an Anna’s Hummingbird nest, viewable from the bridge over the creek, and in which two little hummingbird heads could be seen poking out from time to time.
The surf was up, and the parking lot for Maverick’s was full with people watching surfers offshore, but we found ample parking nearby. Pillar Point Marsh contained American Coots, and with a little coaxing, we heard a call from a Sora. A Red-tailed Hawk was perched on the nearby radio tower, and American Crows and Common Ravens were seen in the area. Scoping the harbor on the way out to the jetty, we observed species seen earlier, in addition to Clark’s Grebe, Red-throated Loon and Red-breasted Merganser. We arrived at the jetty at the northwest corner of the harbor at a perfect time on the receding tide to study many individuals of a variety of shorebirds, including Black-bellied Plover, Willet, Whimbrel, Marbled Godwit, Sanderling, Red Knot (unusual on the coast, this bird has been wintering at this location), Black Oystercatcher, Surfbird, Black Turnstone and, best of all, a Wandering Tattler. Mew Gulls were here as well. Scoping the rocks offshore, we noted several Snowy Egrets, Brandt’s Cormorants and at least one hauled-out Harbor Seal.